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Allegheny County Bar Association Releases Legal Tips and Your Rights Concerning Debt Collection

Pittsburgh PennsylvaniaApril 27, 2012. The officers of the Allegheny County Bar Association today released legal tips to help citizens understand their rights in debt collection. These tips are the ninth in a series of monthly briefs from the association on a timely legal issue.  The legal tips are part of the association’s ramped-up marketing efforts to better inform the general public about the free legal information, assistance, and services available through the bar.

According to Howard J. Schulberg, President of the Allegheny County Bar Association, “We received close to 2,100 calls during our annual call-in show on KDKA-TV this week, and many of the calls had to do with debt collection practices and debt collectors, specifically. Unfortunately as the economy continues its ups and downs, more people are struggling with credit card issues that are often followed by calls from debt collectors.”

Schulberg said it is important to understand your rights when dealing with debt collectors. “We want to ensure that people understand that you cannot be jailed for being late on a debt payment, and any such threats are prohibited by the law.”

Future monthly tips will focus on such areas of the law as wills and estates, power of attorney, collaborative law, divorce and custody issues, and teens and the law. The March 2012 monthly legal tips dealt with your legal rights and responsibilities when dealing with the internet.

Chartered in 1870 and headquartered in downtown Pittsburgh, The Allegheny County Bar Association is a professional organization with more than 6,500 member attorneys, judges, legal administrators, and paralegals.

Contacts:

Howard J. Schulberg
President
Allegheny County Bar Association
412-281-0587

Whitney Hughes
Director of Lawyer Referral Service
Allegheny County Bar Association
412-402-6703

Tom Loftus
Director of Marketing/Media Relations
Allegheny County Bar Association
412-402-6620


Allegheny County Bar Association Monthly Legal Tips
Debt Collection Practices

Although we do see some hopeful signs, we are still dealing with a struggling economy. Many people still find that they are facing a mountain of debt and are unsure the steps to take when confronted with collection efforts. Bankruptcy laws can be confusing and it may take some people a significant amount of time to gather the filing fee.

If you are continually receiving delinquency notices and debt collectors are always calling, here are some basic facts and some tips to help navigate through this tough time.

The FDCPA
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (often called the "FDCPA") gives you specific legal rights when dealing with debt collectors.  It allows you to sue debt collectors who unlawfully threaten, berate, intimidate or harass you; call you during odd hours, make false representations about the debt or their intentions, or otherwise act in ways proscribed by the act.

One example of conduct that is illegal under the FDCPA is a debt collector contacting your place of employment in an attempt to collect the debt. A debt collector cannot communicate with a consumer in connection with the collection of any debt at the consumer's place of employment if the debt collector knows or has reason to know that the consumer's employer prohibits the consumer from receiving such communication. Bottom line is that no employer enjoys the thought of paying you to sit there and take calls about your overdue debts all day, so this type of action is clearly prohibited.

The FDCPA requires that within five days after the initial communication with a consumer in connection with the collection of any debt, a debt collector shall (unless already provided in the initial contact), send the consumer a written notice containing - (1) the amount of the debt; (2) the name of the creditor to whom the debt is owed; (3) a statement that unless the consumer, within 30 days after receipt of the notice, disputes the validity of the debt, or any portion thereof, the debt will be assumed to be valid by the debt collector; and (4) a statement that if the consumer notifies the debt collector in writing within the 30-day period that the debt is disputed, the debt collector will obtain verification of the debt. This basically means that if you don’t remember this debt, you have the right to ask what it’s about and get answers to those questions.

HELPFUL TIPS

"Hello, I am _________(name of collector). I am (or this office is) a debt collector representing____________(name of the creditor).  Information obtained during the course of this call will be used for the purpose of collecting the debt."

If the creditor has not been advising you as above, you may have a right to sue.  Any letter you receive from a debt collector must have the same type of information as well.

If you need a lawyer, you can call the Allegheny County Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service at 412-261-5555 or you can visit PittsburghLawyerFinder.org, the association’s new, free online service.

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